INSIGHT: Rallycross goes electric

Images courtesy of Nitro Rallycross

INSIGHT: Rallycross goes electric

Insights & Analysis

INSIGHT: Rallycross goes electric


As motorsport looks to a greener future, many series are looking to hybridization — Formula 1 and top-level sports car racing have been hybrid for some time, IndyCar’s about to follow suit, and NASCAR’s looking that way too.

Rallycross, however, is cutting out the hybrid middleman and going fully electric in 2022. World Rallycross is dipping its toes in the water by retrofitting the existing (and let’s be honest, ageing) cars of the last few years with electric drivetrain kits, while Nitro Rallycross is taking it a whole step further with an all-new, purpose-built car.

Nitro Rallycross is America’s newest top-level rallycross series, having debuted last year. This year it’ll expand beyond the borders of the United States with races in Canada, Saudi Arabia, Finland, Sweden, and the UK – which will host the season opener.

A bold calendar expansion so early in the life of the series is a big step, especially when the history of U.S.-based rallycross series can be described as “checkered” at best, but bringing in a groundbreaking new car this early is certainly a signal of huge intent.

The FC1-X (pictured above and top), developed by rallycross powerhouse Olsbergs MSE and electromobility specialists QEV Technologies, certainly ticks all the boxes when it comes to statistics: 0-60 in 1.5 seconds, a top speed of 180mph, and a power output equivalent to 1000hp. Those are all record numbers when it comes to the discipline, but while making the fastest, most powerful, most capable car was in the design brief, building an all-new electric car for a burgeoning race series was less about making a statement, and more about future-proofing the series from the off and taking what was deemed to be the only viable course of action.

“We need electric. Everyone, as a sport, as drivers, to be able to live on this, we need electric,” Kevin Eriksson, who’s father Andreas runs OMSE and has carried out much of the development work of the FC1-X behind the wheel, tells RACER. “There is no money anymore in anything ICE, unfortunately. We all love it but we’d rather do that with our own money when we want to have fun then do this to be able to live.

“That’s the way the world is going, we see it everywhere. All the manufacturers are going electric and they are going SUV-style so I would say we have a good platform here for 10 years forward here, and probably even more.

“I think with the big changes we have seen since Tesla arrived, all the OEMs are on the back foot of the electric wave and they’re all trying to be quick to catch up. I think we are actually well in the game there, even before some manufacturers.”

But while Nitro Rallycross’ new electric category is very much forward-thinking, there is more than a nod to the past. The category itself will be called “Group E,” alluding to world rallying’s infamous Group B era, and Jenson Button, who will contest the series, says that the new car’s performance is reminiscent of the legendary stage monsters too.

“That’s what we want. We love seeing crazy stuff,” said the 2009 F1 champion. “That’s why we loved the Group B rally cars. Rallycross cars, they’re just nuts. A handful, but they’re nuts, and really good fun.”

Nitro Rallycross’ 2022-23 season will begin on June 18-19 at Lydden Hill, the site of the very first rallycross race back in 1967, and while these new electric cars will be the headline attraction, supercars — 600 horsepower machines with four-wheel-drive that are capable of launching to 60mph in 1.9 seconds — will remain on the undercard. For Eriksson, the battery-powered beasts won’t be a direct replacement either, at least not yet.

“I don’t really see it as a competitor to the supercar — I love the supercar,” he insists. “The supercar is a fairly old car if you look at the regulation when it was created. And this is an SUV — an SUV is slightly bigger, it’s electric … this is another element.

“We need to keep both. We need to keep the sound — supercars still have many years available to do cool stuff, but as drivers we need also something new after all these years and I think this is that.”